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Point Spread odds (As of March 28)
Virginia Tech +7.5 (1.91)
Duke -7.5 (1.91)
We were on the verge of one of those classic upsets that the reputation of March Madness is built on.
Central Florida, the underdog, had the No. 1-ranked Duke Blue Devils, the favourites to win the NCAA Tournament, on the ropes in the Round of 32.
In fact, the Blue Devils were down three points and only 14 seconds away from an early elimination when an extraordinary, no doubt excruciating, set of events unfolded that ultimately led to Duke taking an improbable last-second lead then having UCF ring not one but two shots off the rim as the clock ticked down to zero.
Duke was seconds and inches away from having its dream of winning the 2019 NCAA Tournament shattered by a scrappy underdog.
Alas, the Blue Devils came through with a one-point victory. They face Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16, and they will do so as 7.5-point favourites heading into Friday’s game. A spot in the Elite Eight is on the line.
Virginia Tech enters the game with a 6-2 record against the spread in their last eight neutral site games. There was a back-and-forth battle between underdogs and favourites against the spread through the first two rounds of March Madness. The dogs were barking in the opening round, while the favourites had success straight up and against the spread in the Round of 32.
Duke is, not surprisingly, the public team of this tournament. Bettors have bought into the Blue Devils’ bid for a championship, with more than 50 per cent of money wagered on them at PlayNow.com to win the NCAA Tournament prior to it getting underway last week.
The outright odds haven’t changed.
Duke still has the best odds to win it all – currently with odds of 3.25 at PlayNow.com as of Thursday, prior to tip-off of the Sweet 16 schedule.
They face a Virginia Tech team that defeated Duke a month ago.
Of course, the Blue Devils didn’t have their star Zion Williamson in the lineup back then, as he dealt with a sprained knee.
Williamson is healthy now. He has regained form as the raw, dominant force that helps drives the Blue Devils offence, which adds a totally new dynamic to this matchup. Duke has yet to lose since Williamson returned to the lineup, amassing a 5-0 record so far, although that was certainly in jeopardy over the weekend.
One flaw that has garnered discussion when it comes to Duke’s championship hopes is its glaring inability to shoot from three-point range. The Blue Devils are shooting just 30.7 per cent from beyond the arc.
That is 330th in the entire NCAA Division I.
That is bad.
As you would expect, it’s going to be talked about as a potential Achilles Heel for a team that has aspirations of a national title. Virginia Tech is at the opposite end of the spectrum, shooting 39.5 per cent from three-point range, which places them within the top-10 in NCAA Division I.
As of Thursday, Duke had Money Line odds of 1.28 to win straight up on Friday. Virginia Tech’s odds at PlayNow.com stand at 3.50.